A start up motorcycle cooperative Motomethod, run by partners Paul Malowany and Simon Travers, is exactly what my beaten F650GS needs before heading north to Alaska. That Simon is a F650GS Dakar rider, and that the shop is reputed to offer fair advice without clocking every minute that we chatted couldn’t hurt my cause.
This is a proper motorcycle workshop, not a tiled floor air-conditioned workspace manned by “technicians” in pristine overalls plugging the latest machines into expensive diagnostic computers.
Hanging around the shop while Simon gave the bike the once over including a test ride, I notice the racks of stored bike and a number of people working on bikes in the shop. Paul explained the cooperative workshop’s history.
Paul and Simon first met while Paul was working covertly out of a two car garage. Their paths crossed but they didn’t stick. Later, Simon decided on a career as a motorcycle mechanic and looked up Paul for advice.
From that point the concept of a motorcycle cooperative began to take form. No inception is instant, the idea grew out of people popping into Paul’s for the quick borrowing of a wrench or adjustment, and Paul himself needing access to specialist tools, and grew into Motomethod.
The shop itself is old school. It doesn’t have those fancy machines and floors that play your reflection back as you stare from behind a glass partition. Nope. This shop smells, looks, and feels like a true bit of motorcycle heaven.
That’s not to say Motomethod is ill equipped, a swanky new tire change machine sits agains one wall ready to preserve your rims, and a fully equipped machine shop handles sandblasting, welding, turning and milling, and even some fabrication.
The idea for the cooperative was to educate people, teach them to fix motorcycles themselves to save money and understand their bike’s workings. Members of the cooperative get access to tools and the facility, free tire changes, and one break down a year. This is included in their annual $100 dues. Once they’ve joined they pay an hourly rate for instruction or an hourly rate to rent the bay to work on their bikes. They also offer the option of storing project bikes.
The concept isn’t entirely original, a similar company called Adrenaline Motorcycle Cooperative is run by Scott Collins on Vancouver Island. A good friend of Paul’s, Scott has been running Adrenaline on the same model for 5-6 years. Living up to the name cooperative, Scott has played a very big part in the launch and subsequent growth of Motomethod.
As a coop Motomethod offers access to specialist tools, mentoring/instruction, access to motorcycle mechanics. There’s also a motorcycle 101 course schedule, covering the basics from winterizing your bike, general maintenance and oil changes through to more advanced topics like balancing carburetors on multi-cylinder bikes.
The philosophy of Motomethod is transparency says Paul, “People come in and see what happens behind the curtain. Your bike doesn’t just disappear behind a garage door to get worked on and you just pay”. “At Motomethod people can get involved, see what happens, can touch the stuff. It’s liberating for a lot of people to come and find out how their bike works, why the brakes run out, what it means when the motor burns oil”.
It’s also about keeping people safe on the road, by ensuring they understand the essential safety checks they need make to their bikes before setting out for a ride. As Simon puts it, “It still surprises me how little some people know about basic motorcycle safety and how little the industry in general is doing to educate riders”.
Running ahead of the industry curve in terms of female clientele, the coop membership is roughly 30% women and 70% men. They just started selling memberships in May and already have 100 plus members.
Motomethod clientele ranges from teenagers to grandmothers. The 15 year old boys who don’t have their motorcycle licenses yet, hanging around and learning to wrench on their first bike.
Part of dedicated group of more senior riders, Phyllis, wanted to learn why the technician at her normal BMW shop was charging so much money. She just wanted to know where the money goes and why. She asked the BMW guys and they said she couldn’t go there since she was far too old and if she fell down there’d be a liability issue.
The Phyllis came to Motomethod and was able to literally get her hands onto the inner workings of her own bike. With that knowledge comes increased independence from simply nodding at what service writers and technicians say, and confidence to ask questions… if she returns to a “normal” shop.
Phyllis is now one of 10 or 15 seniors who are Paul’s personal clients, who come in to have their bikes worked on or watch them being worked on. The shop is developing a clientele running the range from suited and booted all the way to the grease under the nails enthusiast looking to save a few dollars.
It is a great place to come to in Vancouver if you want to get your bike worked on. Sitting at Clarke and Francis the shop snugs into the industrial area, while still being convenient to down town and the suburbs. Motomethod though is much more. Want to learn how to work on your own wheels? Need shop space just for a few hours? It’s at Motomethod. Need some parts ordered? Want to just ask some basic questions? Build a bike from scratch? Again, think Motomethod. Beyond being a shop the business is shaping up to be a community resource.
Motomethod’s services cover all marques and models, running from a pre-riding season safety check , to a full engine rebuilds and blueprinting, to winter motorcycle storage… Just in time for the looming fall and winter season, or for my ride to Alaska.
Photos by: Evan Leung